As lead singer of the Andrews sisters, Patty Andrews could warm the hearts and lift the spirits of GI's abroad, while keeping fans at home in a swinging mood.
Andrews, the last surviving member of the sibling trio that ruled the pop charts in the 1930s and 1940s, died Wednesday at her home in Los Angeles. She was 94.
She was the youngest of the group, which included LaVerne and Maxene Andrews, and her dancing and humorous antics made her a crowd favorite. The sisters were the best-selling female vocal group in pop music history, selling an estimated 75 million to 100 million records, and were in constant demand for concerts, radio shows, films and product pitches.
Among their familiar hits were Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen, Shortenin' Bread, Beat Me Daddy, Eight to the Bar, Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy and (I'll Be With You) In Apple Blossom Time. They also had hits with Danny Kaye, Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman and their bands. They worked most frequently with Bing Crosby, with whom they made Don't Fence Me In, Is You Is Or Is You Ain't My Baby and Accentuate the Positive.
But their influence went beyond the numbers, which included 113 charting Billboard hits, 46 of which made the top 10. They influenced a wide range of artists: Mel Torme, the McGuire Sisters, the Lennon Sisters, Manhattan Transfer, Barry Manilow and Christina Aguilera. Bette Midler's first No. 1 hit was a cover of Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy in 1973, which sparked renewed interest in the sisters' music.
Though their close, three-part harmonies were sublime, the sisters' working relationship was not always that way. Patty joined another group in 1951, and Laverne and Maxene learned about it from gossip columns. They would reunite five years later, but underlying tension would always be there. They continued to work together until 1967, when LaVerne died. Patty built a solo career playing variety shows and working in Las Vegas. Maxene went her own way as well, touring until she died in 1995.
The sisters, who were raised near Minneapolis, developed their act from listening to the Boswell Sisters (a jazz vocal trio popular in the 1920s and early 1930s) on radio. They studied singers at the vaudeville house near their father's restaurant and soon began singing and performing with bands. When the family moved to New York, their mother got them a radio gig. That led to them signing with Decca Records and their careers took off from there.
Patty Andrews married Martin Melcher, an agent who represented the sisters and Doris Day, in 1947. They divorced two years later, and he married Day. Patty married the band's pianist, Walter Weschler, in 1952. He became their manager and demanded more money for himself and Patty. The other two sisters rebelled, and lawsuits were filed between the two camps.
Contributing: The Associated Press